Photo #8: Church: Jesus-style

It’s been interesting reading and listening to a few different reflections on Thursday evening’s service at the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church. As should be expected, everyone took something different from it.

My take? It just got better as the night rolled on. If you left before 9:30, you missed out on the real heart of the service.

Taize worship? I don’t know much about it. Not familiar with the history of it, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It seems, though, that I will be content to do without it. Just not really into formal, ordered worship times. I didn’t pick up the lyric sheet, which I was kinda glad for in retrospect. Since the songs were continuous loops of the same words, sorta chanted to guitar and violin, once I caught on it was easy to move past following the notes and lyrics to-a-T and just fix my attention on the Lord. Certainly was mellow-out stuff, but I mostly prefer mellow-ing out to my own song and melody… But then again, worship isn’t so much about me as it is about the Lord, so if He was glorified and lifted up and found it as a sweet incense, then mission accomplished.

Richard Foster then built the case for the need of the Kingdom of God to be demonstrated in power. One of his key concepts was that whenever there is a declaration of the Kingdom, there ought to be a demonstration of it. In our churches, how often are we asking God to confirm his Word through signs and wonders, as the disciples did in Acts 4?

It’s sad that the church has shied away form power ministry over the years. I would imagine it’s mostly because we’ve seen or heard of it being abused. That makes sense, I guess. I think intentions are good; people don’t want to be deceived, they don’t want to scare people away… stuff like that. But the Bible is… the Bible. It’s God’s Word; it’s our hand book. When did it become up to us to decide which parts of His Word we ought to pursue? If gifts have been abused or not, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 to not be ignorant of spiritual gifts and to “eagerly desire the best gifts.” What are the best gifts? Do we even ask the question or seek an answer? Two chapters later, we’re exhorted to pursue spiritual gifts, especially that we would prophecy, and to “eagerly desire to prophecy.” Of course, instruction on how to move in the greatest gift of all, agape love, is nestled in-between there. That’s of ultimate importance.

Anyway, Foster did a great job of unpacking his own journey toward understanding every Christ-follower’s call to move in God’s power. It wasn’t just for the 12, it wasn’t just for the 70, it wasn’t just for the first apostles–those who’d seen and fellowshipped with Christ. It’s for everyone. Read Jack Deere’s book Surprised By the Power of the Spirit for a deeper look at the Biblical case for this.

Then, following Foster’s faith-building message (Romans 10:17), a guy who prays for the sick for a living gave a little workshop. It was really neat to hear what he’d learned over the years. There’s so much that is mystic about praying for healing… so much beyond explanation. And that’s the beauty of it all at the same time… it IS beyond explanation and beyond workshop-able. You don’t have to understand it to do it… you just have To Do It. Just believe and pray. There is much to learn in the doing.

I think we’d be amazed at what God would do if we would simply start praying and applying His Word to situations. “We do not have because we do not ask” (James 4:2). Asking God to heal us and our brothers and sisters is Biblical; it’s a commandment. We aren’t being selfish when we ask God for what he’s already offering us. I think it’s often one of those “I thought you’d never ask…” situations where a person is just dying to be asked out by the person they adore… He wants to bless us so much, but He responds to His word. He doesn’t force His blessings on us.

Many of the experiences shared by the Old Saint mirrored things I’d read in books (namely Deere’s mentioned above). Reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

People can be different; approaches can be different… but it’s still the same God who moves on behalf of His people, so there are going to be similarities, too.

The looming question in many people’s heads plagues even those who’ve been involved in ministry for decades: Why are some people healed, and others not. There are myriad ways to explain this mystery, many of which Deere covers in the book I’ve mentioned three times now (you should really read it). And the Old Saint, in a round-about way, simply said he didn’t know, but keeps praying anyway. And I think that’s a pretty good philosophy.

There are times we can and should know why God’s Word hasn’t come to pass in a situation–like, in the case of healing, if a person has unrepentant sin in his or her heart, or is under demonic bondage or is backslidden…. stuff like that can be in the way and should be dealt with. But there are times it might be a mystery. And we can’t let mystery of the unknown keep us from pursuing what we do know: that God’s Word is true regardless from circumstances, experiences or testimonies. And if His Word says “believers will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mark 16:18), then we should lay hands on the sick and expect them to recover… not hope “it’s God will” they recover. The verse doesn’t say “And the sick might recover if it’s God’s will.” It says they will recover.

Toward the end, the Old Saint reminded those in attendance that healing ministry in the North American Church has been decidedly absent the past few-hundred years, though it is alive and thriving most everywhere else, especially South America, Africa and Asia. But it’s coming back to America… and that’s really exciting. The Body needs it; and the post-service prayer time showed how people are for it.

After the Old Saint prayed for a few people, Ken Brewer–Spring Arbor University’s resident disciple’r–brought out the troops: a dozen or so SAU students who’ve been trained in healing ministry and actively practice it with the sick and hurting in Jackson (and hopefully right in their dorm rooms, because we all need healing). They would pray for anyone in the audience who wanted prayer. Though few immediately jumped at the opportunity, once a few did, things picked up steam and many were ministered to.

Being an addict of seeing “the kingdom of God at hand,” I stuck around to offer intercession support and take it in. It’s so exciting to see students with such zeal for ministering in the Lord’s power. It was Church: Jesus-style, as you read in this entry’s title. When we started settling for talking-head church, I don’t know. But weekend service-church-as-we-know-it should primarily be about Body-maintenance, where we come together to minister to each other and be recharged from our tough week in the trenches. And that’s how I kinda saw the post-service time: the body was ministering to the body. People needed prayer and they were getting it.

By not having an active healing prayer ministry, or prophetic ministry, or permitting people to speak and interpret tongues, or move in words of wisdom or knowledge, we’re pulling a 1 Corinthians 12:20-26:

But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Many churches have hacked off so many appendages, we may as well call Sundays an amputee service rather than a worship service. If a local body doesn’t have members (or at least frequently-visiting ministers) moving in some gifts, it would seem to be a red-flag of sorts to the leadership that something is wrong… that the body isn’t being properly attended to. If not, the leadership is essentially saying “I have no need of you.” America, and the church with it, has exalted knowledge and the ability to teach as an ultimate gift which should take care of most everyone’s needs. But God Word doesn’t agree. And when “one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”

I’m excited about what’s happening and will continue to happen on campus and among the greater-Jackson area Church. We’ve been praying for a new movement of the Spirit, and things like this service, GospelFest and others are signs progress is happening. And with the “shaking” going on at SAU, which, I might add, was prophesied, I’m reaffirmed things are in God’s hands and will “work out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Joel Maust

Joel Maust is a blogger, marketer and photographer living in the beautiful Flathead Valley of northwest Montana.

12 Comments

Mom

about 11 years ago

Was the "Old Saint" who gave the workshop on healing Bill Vaswig? He was with Richard Foster when I attended the class on spiritual formation a couple of years ago. Did he share his story of how his son was healed? He is an awesome man of God. I'd love to hear him again.

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Joel

about 11 years ago

Yes, it is. I was going to swap in his name once I found out, but never got around to it. I don't remember him telling the story about his son. He shared several, but not that one. I'm sure his book about it would be very good. Did he talk about Agnes Sanford much when he taught with Foster? I saw her name connected with theirs on some stuff I read on line. Looks like her books would be great as well.

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Mom

about 11 years ago

Yes, Bill did mention Agnes Sanford. When Bill's son was young, he had psychological problems. As a teenager he was despondent and suicidal. Bill and his wife heard of Agnes and took their son to her. She laid hands on him and sensed the spirit of fear in him. She also saw him as a young child in a room that was shaking. Bill had pastored a Lutheran Church in Southern California when there was a large earthquake. That was when the spirit of fear entered his son. She commanded the spirit to leave, he was healed--no more despondency and suicidal tendencies. When I heard Bill his son was part of his ministry. I guess Agnes also believed we have dominion over nature (to care for it, not abuse it). The Vaswigs were having a meal at her home on a deck or patio. Some bees were bothering them and she told them to leave and go to the flower bed. The bees left and went to the flower bed.

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Joel

about 11 years ago

I love how matter-of-factly you ended that. That was great :) I think she's right. I was just reviewing some of the Psalms I'd read the past two weeks... Psalm 8:6-8 says: 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen– Even the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. Back in my days at Bible Memory Camp, I remember John Peterson telling us how he once prayed against mosquitoes and was never bothered by them again.

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Jonathan

about 11 years ago

"When we started settling for talking-head church, I don’t know. But weekend service-church-as-we-know-it should primarily be about Body-maintenance, where we come together to minister to each other and be recharged from our tough week in the trenches. And that’s how I kinda saw the post-service time: the body was ministering to the body. People needed prayer and they were getting it. By not having an active healing prayer ministry, or prophetic ministry, or permitting people to speak and interpret tongues, or move in words of wisdom or knowledge, we’re pulling a 1 Corinthians 12:20-26:... Many churches have hacked off so many appendages, we may as well call Sundays an amputee service rather than a worship service. If a local body doesn’t have members (or at least frequently-visiting ministers) moving in some gifts, it would seem to be a red-flag of sorts to the leadership that something is wrong… that the body isn’t being properly attended to. If not, the leadership is essentially saying “I have no need of you.” America, and the church with it, has exalted knowledge and the ability to teach as an ultimate gift which should take care of most everyone’s needs. But God Word doesn’t agree. And when “one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” Sounds like an exciting night. It is an awesome thing to see God move in peoples lives and through peoples lives. One thing I would take issue with is the above quote. There is a definite place for what you referred to as "talking-head church". If you remember the young lad Eutychus that fell out of the window and died while the Apostle Paul was meeting at a house. It was because Paul was doing the whole "talking-head" thing all night long, and possibly all day before that. It does often appear that God moves with miraculous signs and wonders more often in third world countries that here in the States. And I am not fully sure of that. I think you are right that we do not urnestly see it out as much as they do. However, (to get to my point) a worship service, as you called it is just that, Worship. And worship is not me-getting-my-needs-met church. A worship service means we are there to worship God, we are coming together as a group of believers to do what our primary function, our only real reason we were created for; To explicitly Glorify God. If you want to really look at the early church as a whole, then reading all through Acts and really looking for what is there (no agenda) is required. I used to completely agree with what you wrote about the church meeting and coming together. But the more I read, and the more I became like the church in Berea (and that is a thing to really strive for, I don't know if any other church was more complemented than that church and their study of the Word) the more I think that preaching of the Word is much much more important, and that the miraculous signs and wonders are a way for God to confirm the message of His grace. But they are Not and end in themselves. In the last days there will be those who say "did we not preform signs and wonders in your name" and Jesus will say "Away from me! I do not know you!" But He will not say that to those who faithfully administer the Word of Truth, proclaim God's grace and mercy. The reason behind Jesus continually telling those He healed to not tell any others was why? I think it is plain that it was because he had preaching to do, and not just healing the body, but rather converting the soul, righting peoples understanding of who Jesus really is, and whom He is not. I have a myriad more to say on this topic but am already way over written. I agree Joel, God moves in miraculous way, and they are WONDERFUL to experience. What breaks my heart is when we as Christians are obsessed with the things God has given us (whatever they be physical or spiritual) instead of the God who gives them. May God make His truth shine through all the brighter, noone elses. God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in HIm.

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Joel

about 11 years ago

Jon, thanks for your comments and insight. I can see how that section came across the way you read it. Let me clarify a bit, though. I'm all for talking-head... just not talking-head only. Or even music + talking head. I'm more in favor of music + talking head + ministry, in that order. I think God-exaltation refocuses our body, souls and spirits properly and prepares us to hear God’s word. Hearing God’s word builds faith and paves the way for ministry. We need balance to experience wholeness. The talking-head portion of the church I attend has probably done more for cultivating growth in my walk with God than anything else. There's nothing more powerful than speaking God's Word and letting the Lord teach His people more about it. Sometimes just hearing a message from the Word will set people free from bondage; they don't even need prayer. But, there are times when a person does need ministry, and the majority of churches I've attended over the course of my life do not offer this on a regular basis. I think it's sad... thus the above blog. And thus my excitement to see it at the church next to campus. To your point, you're right in that if weekly church meetings were laying-hands only, they would be misguided. Where would the God-focus be if we were all about ministering to each-other's needs? We need to "minister" to the Lord, too. Doing ministry-only would essentially be doing the same limb-hacking as I criticized. (“I don’t need you, teacher…”) In light of that, I should change my statement that "Weekend services should primarily be about body maintenance." "Primarily" is probably wrong; it should be about glorifying and worshipping God. Maybe “secondarily” would be better. I see preaching as part of body maintenance. People need to be fed the Word, for it is our daily bread. Worship, too; in worship, we are changed as we enter into His presence. There is freedom in worship. But, I don’t think an attitude of “I’m going to worship God so I can get free” is right. We should always be of the mind: “I’m going to worship God because he is God and there is not other before Him!” So, in summary… I agree with I feel was your main idea--that preaching is of utmost-importance. And hopefully I clarified my position a bit in that I’m not against, nor do I under-value sermons by any means. The spoken Word is God’s most powerful tool, hands down; that's how He creates. I would just like to see that third element of ministry tacked onto most church services, because I think a lot of people have unmet needs for which they don’t know how to get help.

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Crystal

about 11 years ago

Two things... 1. The mosquito thing has also happened to me. So great! 2. I would very much like to join in on your coversation but I hesitate. I don't know Jonathan and so I don't want to make assumptions or speak as though I fully understand what you are trying to say. In writing it is simple to read the tone of the words incorrectly. I would like to hear more of your thoughts Jonathan because as it stands I am troubled by your entry. I hear partial truth in it leaving a tainted taste within myself. If you would share a little more I would appreciate it.

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Joel

about 11 years ago

I think you're showing widsom and discernment, Crystal. I appreciate it. My intent with pointing out the conversation I'd been having with Mom and Jonathan on here wasn't to try and create some multi-person argument on church practices... it was mostly to draw attention to the fact that I had added significant content to my entry via the comments and that there was interesting story and idea-sharing going on. I assumed people didn't regularly check the comments, but maybe I'm mistaken.

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Jonathan

about 11 years ago

Ok, that makes sense. I was wondering a little bit cause I was suprised by what you had to say there. That didn't sound like the JM I know. Although, I will say that there are a lot of people out there that do believe that way, and it is completely misguided. Far too often we as the church get off in these factions and end up on far ends of the continuum. Not that I am at all in favor of people who just take the middle road for the sake of being nonconfrontational, or they take it because they are lazy in their study of the word and it is easy just to agree with everyone instead of actually looking into what God has to say in His word. (I know you are not one of these people:) . Factions for the sake of being opposed to something is not glorifying to God (I don't think) but I think that standing for truth is an obligation we have. Otherwise we will be "tossed around by every new teaching" or old teaching rehashed and repackaged like most all of the "New Age" Christianity out there. Most all of it is just old forms of Heresy coming back in new chic form, and people are buying it. As for peoples needs being ministered. Yes I agree there are tons of needs out there and that is part of what the body of Christ is for, we are there to meet these needs, or rather, we are used by Christ to meet these needs. (He after all is our only comfort in this life) So yes, we need to pray for each other, and beleive. because as you pointed out earlier, "we do not have b/c we do not ask God, (and I would continue) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." I think that it comes back to what we are living for. Are we living to glorify God with all that we are, or is it an add on to our life like it is for most people who would call themselves Christians in America. As I stated in my prior post, and firmly believe, "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him." Are we living for our own pleasures or for Christ? One last note before I am really really late for work. I personally think possibly the greatest problem in the church or weakness, is poor, unthoughout , misguided, unpassionate, noncommital preaching. Peaceout

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Jonathan

about 11 years ago

Hello Crystal, (now I am going to be really really late:) oh well. If you are looking for a greater taste of what I believe you could check it out at jongela.blogspot.com, or just click on Joel's link. I have expressed there a little more on a few different topics. As for the mosquito thing, sweet. I have experienced that with a storm before. My mother was healed of asthma (very severe sometimes confining her to bed because she would be so sick) after living with it for over 40 years. I believe in the power of Christ over all things, actually in a more encompassing statement, I believe in the Supremacy of God in all things on earth and in heaven, seen and unseen. Hmmm.... I don't know how else to explain what I think..... I guess you could talk to Joel, he I think has a decent grasp on what I believe, we have know each other for a wonderfully long time. Or just read the entire Bible and you will understand what I believe:) hehe Ok I have to go. In closing, I agree with your statement (Joel) preaching is of utmost importance! And Crystal thanks for your restaint, I don't desire an argument, only discussion which is easier if you know someone:).

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Crystal

about 11 years ago

Jonathan, thanks for your thoughts. Between your reply to Joel and myself I think much of the haze has lifted. I will check out the link. I'd like to hear more of your thoughts. You have a unique perspective and I like it. I am pretty confident we would bump heads in some conversations but we agree on all the important stuff. :) I respect your passion for the word of God and truth. On that common ground I find delight in having you as a brother in Christ.

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